All or nothing?

Sometimes I wonder if the dating game isn’t just some kind of self-inflicted school course in self discovery. With each new person and each new experience you gain knowledge of others (in my case, men, with all their gifts and faults) but in addition, you have your own expectations and needs reflected back on you and that can be disconcerting.

The latest person to enter my life is someone who I don’t have illusions about – he’s not the man of my dreams. But he’s OK and that’s good enough for me right now. Or is it?

I know I’m not in the right place to start a long-term, meaningful relationship but I still want to have an emotional and physical connection with someone. For me, that means communicating every day, sharing both the important and insignificant moments, if not real, then virtual kisses in the morning and before falling asleep at night, regular dates both in and out of my home with no date-free hiatus during which you feel like you’re in limbo.

But perhaps this is my problem? Perhaps this is rushing in headlong trying to impose intimacy on a virtual stranger in just a few short weeks. Perhaps this is where my last relationship went wrong (although I tend to think it was the introduction to the children and family life that sparked the beginning of the end there..)

I invited him (the new one) to my house three times in two weeks and each time he said yes and then backed out with some quite feeble excuses at the last minute. The last time this happened I sent him a message saying “you don’t have to keep making excuses, if you don’t want to see me any more please just tell me”. He responded (five hours later) saying “I do want to see you [Layla], just want to take it a bit slower if that’s alright”.

The thing is, I don’t know if it is alright. I said I’d just leave him to invite me out in future but I hate not knowing when/if we will see each other again and it makes me feel like the messages and chats I regularly instigate are not worth my energy. I feel out of control of the situation and it doesn’t seem to fulfil the needs I have.

Are my needs unrealistic and out of proportion and over the top? I might be deluded but I just tend to think of myself as a pretty cool, easy-going, attractive, open, honest, loyal, generous partner and it confounds me when someone holds all of that off at arm’s length. It makes me question them (are they playing the field, are they scared by the very idea of emotional intimacy, do they think that I will turn into some kind of bunny boiler and lock them in the second they cross my threshold?)

And if you tend to agree that my ‘all-in’ attitude is too much, then how does emotional intimacy even begin? Is there this one day where everyone agrees it’s OK to expect a bit more than a sporadic get together? When it’s OK to start holding hands? When you can finally begin to think of yourselves as an actual couple?

 

Having a wobble

If this is how difficult it is to get over a 4 month long relationship then thank god the break up happened when it did because any deeper in and I can’t imagine the devastation.

I think all this dating stuff has brought it home to me. I’d barely even dipped a toe in the murky dating pool when I met my boyfriend and it just seemed like serendipity to be able to bypass all this headwrecking shit that I feel I’m being drawn into again now.

I know it’s early days but somehow being pursued by non starters and ignored by the rest of the actively dating male population seems so much worse than if they never even knew I existed.

My boyfriend boosted my confidence so much – he made me feel so special – he had eyes for nobody else. It’s really hard to go back into this limbo.

Other than about 3 hours yesterday afternoon I’ve been on my own with the kids for the last 48 hours. Today wasn’t too bad – soaring temperatures here in the south of England and my eldest was at a birthday party for 3 hours, then off with his mate from the neighbourhood all afternoon so it was just me and my little cutie.

Still 48 hours with only the briefest interlude to interact with other adults does feel kind of lonely and then to be bombarded with two hours of chat last night during which I could probably have walked away from the phone and he wouldn’t even have noticed, combined with what almost felt like an attack on the things I *did* get to say left my head spinning. I normally sleep pretty well but last night I really struggled and despite not having any alcohol I awoke in the early hours with my head banging like a dehydrated drunk.

This obviously isn’t a healthy direction to be heading in and I probably need to stop.
I think it doesn’t help that I am not only losing three of my normally child free Fridays due to the Easter break but I also have zero child contact dates from the husband going forwards and psychologically that leaves me feeling like I simply have no respite.

In reality I know how lucky I am, how much I have to be grateful for. Being able to blog all this shit out of my head is helpful and I think that so many people must be feeling the same or worse than I do right now. Maybe someone needs to set up an IDA group (Internet Daters Anonymous) where those of us addicted to the potential highs but more often than not wrecked by the emotional lows can get together and support each other through this long dark teatime of the soul…

Man trouble

When someone breaks up with you it’s normally because they’ve got tired of you, right? They’ve fallen out of love, stopped finding you attractive, spent enough time around you to finally be acting on that old adage ‘familiarity breeds contempt’. With the husband, I probably reached that point at least three years before I finally left although there was obviously a lot more to it than that and if you’ve read this blog from the very beginning you’ll understand exactly what I mean.

With the boyfriend it’s different. It was a long enough relationship to form a real bond and become emotionally connected – you know that thing where it seems as though you are both thinking the same thing at the same time even when you’re not together physically?

I raise this subject because it has obviously been harder to move on knowing that our love didn’t actually die. What makes it even worse is the fact that, for the second time he has contacted me and told me that he misses the same things as me – each other’s love, care and physical presence. He told me that I ticked all his boxes and even ones he hadn’t put on his list yet. He told me he intended to visit me, giving me a date and time (at his own instigation, not mine – I neither encouraged nor discouraged him). Then the following day he took it back and apologised for contacting me.

I can’t lie, that was hurtful, frustrating and I feel like it has set my path to emotional recovery back again. I think he cut himself off from me for a reason external to who I am or who we were as a couple and whilst he sticks by his reason it makes emotional disconnect that much more difficult for him even though he is the dumper and not the dump-ee. In moments of weakness – maybe a lonely evening after a couple of beers, he finds himself drawn back but unless I have some clear indication that he’s changed his mind about us as a couple I really need him to stop doing that.

So that’s one down.

The husband is still messing about with dates for contact, telling me that he might not be able to have the kids one day this week which has been on his list for the past month. Whatever his reason I told him that for his contact dates, he is responsible for them and if alternative arrangements need to be made – whether that be a babysitter or grandparents or whatever, then that is up to him. He asked if I have plans which I do in this instance – a visit to Oxford to see some of my family who are over from Ireland – then he laughed at the thought of me missing out – that he has the power to send a ripple effect into my efforts at happiness and a social world that doesn’t involve him.

I know it is up to me to manage him and my own expectations and it’s not the end of the world to cancel plans (and I probably won’t have to) but in the heat of the moment, it upset me.

You’re probably thinking that’s it then, but no, just one more man to throw into the mix. My next door neighbour’s lodger has taken a shine to me and begun to message me via Facebook Messenger. I ignored it before but in a moment of weakness I responded in a very non-committal way last night and despite my best efforts to put him off I ended up agreeing to have a chat with him outside the front door after the kids were in bed – all togged up in my pyjamas and a duffel coat.

So here’s the problem – he clearly likes me but he is totally not my type and I have no interest in having a relationship with him of any kind really but he is being super over-familiar – sent a message with kisses before bed and then first thing in the morning (literally 5.50am). So now I feel like I have one more man whose behaviour I need to manage. It’s suddenly all turning into an unrequited love rectangle. Give me strength!

Perspective

For 36 hours, other than a few snatched periods of restless sleep filled with dark dreams and a few pockets of stability, I cried. It’s only natural – the person with whom you have become deeply intimate, shared every thought, hope and dream, someone with whom you never exchanged a cross word for four solid months – the person who, just 18 hours before sent you a message telling you they loved you with a twinkly heart attached, shows up on your doorstep, not for the planned assignation which you were expecting but with the express purpose of breaking things off.

To put it in perspective, just two weeks before this we had been enjoying a romantic weekend getaway to the coast, holding hands on the sea wall and fossil hunting the pebbled shores of Charmouth. We had discussed summer barbeques, camping trips abroad and family gatherings.

I’ve already explained the reasons he gave for ending ‘us’, so I won’t re-hash here. What I need to express and explore now is how I am adjusting and what comes next. I’ve been living out the five stages of grief in microcosm – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

I’ve composed a long text message asking him to continue a relationship of sorts only to delete it almost immediately.

I’ve raged about the broken promises, the over-sensitivity, the hypocrisy of telling someone you still love them but then dropping them like a hot potato, the weakness of a person who can’t understand that love should conquer all or alternatively the duplicity of someone who never really loved or let love in whilst claiming otherwise.

I have mourned for the loss of a loving, supportive partner; I have questioned every word and action wondering whether I gave offence unwittingly at some point and re-hashed conversations during our first few dates when we were still offering unguarded information about the nature of our lives and our hearts.

I’ve considered a bleak future in which I live alone with my challenging children in a void punctuated by the bitter attacks of my emotionally abusive ex-husband. I’ve feared that this experience has starkly demonstrated that, in my situation, a middle-aged single mum with two kids in KS1, I am become ‘untouchable’, that a long-term love may be a concept I need to let go of.

But as the hours pass I see things slightly differently. We were two middle aged people who chanced upon one another; we both happened to be single and allowed an attraction to form. We were no star-crossed young lovers. We weren’t the perfect match, we had elements of compatibility.

I re-calibrated my expectations earlier and realised that the pain inflicted upon me two days ago was undeniably centred upon the cruel and unexpected nature of his decision – the fact that he orchestrated a completely one-sided conversation and took any control over the how, why and when of the break-up out of my hands.

If he truly lacks the capacity to man up and offer unconditional love and support to a partner who clearly has her own struggles, or to find a way to control his own stressors and work things through, then he’s not the man I hoped he was and I accept his decision.

However, I still like him, I still think that he is a good man who was generous and open and empathetic and generally fun to be around, so I decided to send him a text asking if he would be willing to continue seeing each other as friends. I sent that message four and a half hours ago. He still hasn’t responded and now I’m not sure what to think…

Home truths…

Dear Next Door Neighbour,

If you are seriously planning on leaving your girlfriend, please do not do so on my behalf. You may think I am amenable to some kind of relationship with you, but I’m not. If I was a 15 year old girl with no experience of the men of the world then you would probably be in with a good chance of getting me into bed at this point, but believe you me I’ve seen it all, the good the bad and the ugly, and I know whereabouts on the spectrum you fall.

You tell me you know me, but the only things you know are things I’ve volunteered – you’ve never actually asked me about myself – what I enjoy doing, what my hopes and dreams are for the future, what makes me laugh.

Parenting? Unless you have ever had to take full and ongoing responsibility for your child’s well-being you cannot identify and it annoys me that you would suggest otherwise.

We met for the first time just six weeks ago.

I think you are addicted to secrets and lies. Take away that element and I suspect the desire would rapidly wain until the next opportunity showed up and the cycle began again.

I feel that you have detected the vulnerability in me – in my situation, and you want to move in for the kill. But listen, I’m not here for the taking – my children need their mum to be happy, mentally balanced and buoyant and I’ve got evidence – literally right on my doorstep – of the emotional fallout of a relationship with you. Anti-depressants? Panic attacks?

The things you’ve said to me about your girlfriend make my soul ache. Your casual attitude to sex leads me to some disturbing conclusions. The word ‘dysfunctional’ barely scrapes the surface.

Sexual frustration is a small price to pay to protect my heart and keep myself and my children safe.

So please accept my apologies if I’ve sent out mixed signals up to this point. It’s taken me this long to get a grip on what’s really going on here but let me make myself clear – I want no part of it.

Finally, thank you for the kindness and friendliness you have shown me but forgive me if I must question your underlying motives. I hope you can find some peace and happiness in your life one day – without the collateral damage.

 

Somebody stop me!

OK, so I told you all about what happened with my new next door neighbours: in a nutshell – he is flirtatious, she is paranoid.

I was good to go to cut them both loose and after hearing nothing from either of them for the best part of a week I thought it was done but then he turned up on my doorstep again and told me that I should speak to her and reassure her that everything is OK because it would be a shame for the kids to pick up on bad vibes and be excluded from the dog walks, etc.

She turned up while he was standing outside my door and he tried to call her over but she was slamming doors and appearing un-cooperative – kind of awkward. Then eventually she came to my door and began to chastise me and I lost it a bit and became quite emotional and told her that frankly, I was tempted to just stop talking to them both.

She stepped inside my house and closed the door and then we had a massive heart to heart about what was going on, what he’s like, his problems, abuse he suffered from his step father as a child. I told her that I believe in ‘the sisterhood’ – that all of my female friends (and quite a few new ones) had gathered round me since my break up and been wonderfully supportive and shared their own stories. (Some lovely men – blogging friends and friends’ husbands have been there too which is also amazing).

I told her that I have never been adulterous or slept with someone who is in a relationship with someone else and that it is not my intention to do so with him.

I assured her that I would let her know if he texted me or called me. And then, next time he texted me and I responded I screen-shotted the whole conversation and forwarded it to her.

But since then…

Well, this is the weird thing with mutual attraction and fantastical obsession – I have gone against my better instincts and gradually allowed him to pretty much pick up where he left off with the calls and texts. Still nothing overtly sexual but he has said things that don’t sit right with me – kind of half imagined non-promises about holidays with the kids and binning off ‘the dragon’.

He’s said more than once that he feels he has more in common with me than he does with her because she doesn’t have children (he’s got one 9 year old son who doesn’t live with him), and also because he’s gone through divorce and because he has a connection with the organisation I work for.

I don’t work on Fridays and he knows that so he came home early today and I actually invited him into my house for tea and a biccie because heaven knows I didn’t want a repeat of the last time – me in her house without her knowledge.

He brought his laptop in and commenced fiddling about with work emails whilst at the same time talking to me – telling me stuff about what’s wrong with the relationship with her; how unhappy he is and how he’s planning to break up with her by telling her he’s met someone else (not me!).

I asked him why they had broken up and got back together three times. He said the last time she was struggling with her mortgage so he moved back in to sleep in the spare room and help her pay the bills but then she’d discovered pictures of him, and I quote “having sex with other girls” on his phone.

Hearing him say that made me feel quite sick. But for some reason I let him hug me; I let him believe that something could potentially happen between us (it didn’t).

Why? Why did I do that? I genuinely like his girlfriend and I feel like I am colluding in a web of deceit with a guy who’s moral compass has no true North.

Yes, I’m sexually frustrated, yes I feel worried that there may be no hope for a woman of my age to attract a decent, attractive, real man who might actually want to be a part of my *real* world and muck in with the kids and at the same time get who I am as a person but is that enough of a reason to get myself caught up with someone who I could never trust?

Someone who I feel probably needs (a lot of) counselling; who seems to be, at heart, a nice guy, but maybe has some sort of – if not sex addiction then addiction to the idea of behaving like a sexual butterfly; who has found a way to make it sound *almost* plausible that there is a non-sexual reason why we should be together, but at the same time isn’t coming close to convincing me that he knows the real me – not one little bit.

I feel like I need to go on a date with someone else or something – a way of showing them both that my life goes on without their drama – that I don’t need him, that I don’t want him, that I am a self-sufficient, strong, single woman – someone who needs to put her children first and foremost and not become embroiled in some kind of soap opera.

I don’t want to morph into her – playing the role of the spurned lover, the one who is always wanting to check their partner’s phone but scared of what they might find; someone who detects the smell of another woman’s perfume in the car and just can’t accept the innocent explanation.

It’s a helluva situation and only more complicated by the fact that we are all going out together on a jolly ‘family’ type outing tomorrow to celebrate his son’s 10th birthday.

Sheesh. Somebody give me a good talking to please.

The girl next door

So, if you’ve been reading all about my emotional rollercoaster lately, you’ll know just how bad things have been. All sorts of other shit has happened with the husband in the past few weeks and I’ve ended up at my solicitors with her sending out a list of suggested contact dates for him up to Christmas. I don’t think he’s received it yet – he’s been messing around with dates again and even though I was prepared to let him have the children for the entire coming weekend (his birthday) he has turned that down because apparently he is ‘going away’ (with his girlfriend).

Long story short I’ve agreed that he can have them for a couple of hours after school on Friday but I’m pissed off that he continues to be able to pick and choose random week nights when he could be having them at weekends. And he has the gall to tell me that he refuses to provide me with ‘free childcare’.

At work my manager has spoken with me after I arrived in tears on a couple of occasions and he is going to find someone appropriate within our organisation for me to talk to in confidence.

So I’ve got all that going on – what would just add nicely to that mix, a little bit more salt in some raw emotional wounds? Why doesn’t destiny just throw in a potential love triangle with the new next door neighbours? Yes, because that won’t be incredibly frustrating and upsetting at all will it?

Except it is.

Guy next door is obviously a bit of a flirt. Nothing hugely overt but lots of little ‘chats’ outside the front door, has given me money to ‘buy the kids ice creams’ when we went to LEGOLAND; has given me a lift into town for a night out with one of my friends and then come back and brought us home afterwards. Essentially all completely innocent but at the same time over-stepping the mark because he’s told me that his girlfriend is massively paranoid and he’s also told me that he finds me attractive and given me huge hug on a couple of occasions.

They don’t have kids and he seems to only live with her part of the time as he has a house of his own elsewhere. He told me they’ve split up three times over the last three years and got back together again and she has described him as a bit of a ‘tart’.

I’m in a really vulnerable place right now because obviously I am a bit lonely and I’m at a point in my life where I have doubted whether a man would ever find me attractive again so it’s a messy mixture of feeling flattered, tempted, letting him make little innocent gestures to me, text (innocent messages) and phone (innocent conversations), but his girlfriend has caught wind of all this and even though I’ve assured her that there is nothing going on between us I haven’t just shut him down like maybe I should have.

He invited me round for a cup of tea and a biscuit this afternoon between getting home from work and doing the school pick up and I agreed. It was fine – we stood in the kitchen, had tea, chatted about kitchen gadgets, he showed me tickets to a music event that him and his girlfriend are going to soon. I told him about the trouble I’ve been having with the husband and the fact that I really appreciate them being nearby if he turns up and tries to invite himself into my home.

He suggested that I come round and have a cup of tea with his girlfriend when the kids are due home on Friday and that way I can receive them without even having to open my own door. I was happy with that.

We said our goodbyes and I went off to school thinking no more of it until later I got a text message from her saying “Not happy!”. I have replied to her apologising and explaining the innocent nature of things and that I hope things are OK between the two of them. That was nearly three hours ago and she hasn’t responded.

Maybe I’m over-reacting but that has made me feel quite tearful. Maybe it does seem like we are doing stuff together behind her back and it does seem like he is engineering times when he knows I’m around and she isn’t so who knows if there is any real intention there on his part – but the fact is that nothing has happened and I’m being treated like ‘the other woman’ when all I need right now is a friend.

I would back off completely and just blank the both of them but the thing is they have three little dogs and the kids adore them and we’ve been going on a few dog walks with them at the local park. We even went out all together with his 9 year old son from his former marriage at the weekend to this kind of trampoline activity zone place and had McDonalds and walked the dogs after. So this is awkward.

I’m mad at myself but I’m also mad at him for putting me in this position and mad at her for jumping to the worst conclusion and treating me like a naughty schoolgirl. Take a look at yourselves people, and leave me out of it. 😦